Jim Alderson's Politically Incorrect BE Preview
by Jim Alderson, 8/2/02
Operating under the assumption that my guess is as good as anybody’s, I hereby present my 2002 Big East predictions, which are guaranteed to be correct unless they are not.
8 Rutgers (Prediction: 0-7 Big East, 3-9 Overall)
Status: Fifteen straight Big East losses and twenty-two of their last twenty-three mean the Dorks have a firm stranglehold on the designation as worst program in the conference. New coach Greg Schiano came in last year and vowed to concentrate on recruiting New Jersey high school kids, and made good on the promise. Now, the trick will be keeping them from transferring out after one year.
Strengths: Meadow Soprano will be at Rutgers after she flunks out of Columbia.
Weaknesses: Guys that fool around with Meadow Soprano tend to get a bullet in the back of the head.
Reason to plan a road trip: Side trip to Bada Bing.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: Danger of getting caught in the crossfire at the Bada Bing as Carmine decides to move in on the Esplanade project by whacking Tony, or Christopher if Rutgers alum Gandolfini comes back for another year.
Stop the presses if: Rutgers wins a conference game.
Leap from a bridge if: The Knights are not 3-0 after opening at home with Villanova, Buffalo and Army.
Outlook: Rutgers will be better, since it is virtually impossible for them to be much worse. Schiano started a bunch of freshmen last year, and they will bring more experience to the table. Still, this is a building [rebuilding implies that a team was once good] job that will take a decade, and Schiano probably doesn’t have that much time before Furio pays him a visit.
7 Temple (1-6 Big East, 4-8 Overall)
Status: The Owls will be the BE’s stepchild only until 2004, when the stepparents throw them out of the house. Bobby Wallace hasn’t done that bad a job, considering Temple has no tradition, no home stadium, no fans, no budget, no anything, but this is Dead Program Playing.
Strengths: Cheese steak vendors on Broad Street.
Weaknesses: You have to go outside the stadium to get them, although that could also be considered a strength.
Reason to plan a road trip: Chance of seeing Bill Cosby at the game.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: Cosby, like everybody else in Philadelphia, doesn’t go to Temple football games.
Stop the presses if: Temple beats Oregon State.
Leap from a bridge if: You’re Temple. Go ahead and jump before the BE throws you.
Outlook: Bobby Wallace was a finalist for the Hyphenated Louisiana job that went to Bustle. That Wallace would go after a job in the RUTS Belt Conference tells you all you need to know about Temple. The clock is ticking on this program.
6 West Virginia (2-5 Big East, 4-8 Overall)
Status: Don Nehlen retired after a long and generally successful run, and as many expected the WVU program went into the tank. Rich Rodriguez has a monumental job ahead of him, and given the chaos of his first year, has yet to demonstrate that he can function as a head coach at this level.
Strengths: They are not Marshall.
Weaknesses: They are in the same state as Marshall.
Reason to plan a road trip: Excellent scenery on the drive to Morgantown.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: 50,000 likkered-up ‘Eers, all wanting to fight.
Stop the presses if: WVU beats Wisconsin.
Leap from a bridge if: The ‘Eers lose to Cincinnati.
Outlook: Rodriguez has a decent tailback in Avon Cobourne, just the thing to have when you are running a gimmick passing offense, and little else. WVU is an under funded program in a state with a tiny recruiting base, making it one of the tougher jobs around, which tells you how good a coach was Nehlen. Rich has shown very little thus far to indicate he is anywhere near that class. It’s hard to see WVU losing twice in a row to Temple [it’s hard to see anybody other than Rutgers losing twice in a row to Temple], but exceeding last year’s victory total will be an accomplishment.
[tie- 4] Pittsburgh (4-3 Big East, 8-4 Overall)
Status: Last year’s anticipated breakthrough season didn’t happen, as Antonio Bryant-induced dissension, coupled with coach Walt Harris’ playing favorites method of dealing with it, wracked this team early before the ship was righted at mid-season. Harris continues to upgrade his recruiting and plug in one program piece at a time while everybody still waits for the breakthrough season that should be here any year now.
Strengths: The Panthers now have excellent facilities.
Weaknesses: They’re also the Steelers facilities and this is a pro football town.
Reason to plan a road trip: The Ketchup Bowl is a great place to watch a game.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: You can’t cop tickets to the Steelers game the next day.
Stop the presses if: Harris figures out how to beat Syracuse.
Leap from a bridge if: Pitt loses at UAB, a much tougher game than South Florida at home [you know, the game the Panthers lost last year].
Outlook: Tech, Miami and Pitt nemesis Syracuse are all on the road, ruling out a big year. Priestley and Bryant will be tough to replace, but the defense is solid. These guys are going to bite the Big East sooner or later, just not sooner.
[tie- 4] Boston College (4-3 Big East, 9-3 Overall)
Status: Tom O’Brien has steadily improved BC, taking them to three straight bowl games and moving into the BE’s first division. The next step is the toughest, cracking the top.
Strengths: Best clam chowder in the Big East.
Weaknesses: Ice shortage for drinks due to the amounts needed to keep Ted Williams frozen.
Reason to plan a road trip: To check out the original ‘Cheers’ before and/or after the game.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: Firing up the tailgate grill in the stadium parking garage can cause mass asphyxiation.
Stop the presses if: BC knocks off Miami on the road.
Leap from a bridge if: They lose to the Canes by more than 40.
Outlook: Boston College will benefit from senior leadership at crucial positions, such as quarterback, but they lack the overall team speed to be a serious conference player. The tough admissions situation on Chestnut Hill makes it chancy that the necessary speed can be acquired, making one wonder when O’Brien will decide he has taken this program as far as he can.
[tie- 2] Syracuse (5-2 Big East, 8-4 Overall)
Status: A year ago Syracuse and Paul Pasqualoni were dead and buried, before he turned in what I felt [considering the talent he was working with] was the BE’s best coaching job, resulting in a 10-3 record. The slight post-McNabb malaise was over for a year.
Strengths: Refusal of fans to travel to bowl games helps the country reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
Weaknesses: Refusal of fans to travel to bowl games keeps losing bowl tie-ins for the conference.
Reason to plan a road trip: Everybody should see the Carrier Dome once from the inside.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: Nobody should be forced to see the Carrier Dome twice from the inside.
Stop the presses if: The Orangepersons open the season 2-0. Winning these kinds of OOC games is not Pasqualoni’s strong suit.
Leap from a bridge if: Pasqualoni loses his Pitt magic.
Outlook: The Orangepersons finally found another quarterback, but lose the rest of their offense. The all-important conference schedule is favorable, with three of the other four good Big East teams at home, but the end of the season is a bear. It will be another winning season for Syracuse, ending with their fans griping and refusing to attend the bowl game that was stuck with Syracuse.
[tie- 2] Virginia Tech (5-2 Big East, 10-3 Overall)
Status: In 2001, Vick's NFL millions and Lee Suggs' blown knee shredded what were legitimate MNC hopes. While the 8-4 record eerily resembled '97, indicating Tech might be in a four-year cycle, this program is solid.
Strengths: Recruiting class is at Tech rather than Fork Union.
Weaknesses: Staff lacks thousands of years of NFL coaching experience.
Reason to plan a road trip: Communion.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: Wild Turkey distillery burns to the ground.
Stop the presses if: Tech beats Texas A&M at Kyle Field. It is a tough place to play.
Leap from a bridge if: Marshall comes within two touchdowns.
Outlook: If Grant’s knee is sound, if Lee’s knee is sound, and if the middle of the defense matures early are too many ‘if’s’ to keep me from agreeing with Big Dave. This Tech team will have more talent than most of the teams they play, but much of it is young talent that will have to learn the lessons that only come with experience. The Hokies will be better in November than in September, and very tough to deal with late in the year. The OOC is tougher but the seven most important games remain the seven Big East ones.
1 Miami (7-0 Big East, 11-1 Overall)
Status: The Canes are back, now. Larry Coker stepped into one of the all-time great situations and led the Canes to the MNC. Miami plans on staying at the top for a while.
Strengths: Views on South Beach, contributing to Miami’s excellent recruiting.
Weaknesses: Views on South Beach, contributing to Miami’s poor attendance.
Reason to plan a road trip: Views on South Beach, and the cigar shops in Little Havana.
Reason to check satellite coordinates: Gang warfare outside of the Orange Bowl.
Stop the presses if: The Canes leave the BE to join the NFL.
Leap from a bridge if: They lose to Florida.
Outlook: The Canes lost a load of talent and return a load of talent. This is a premiere program that will be able to win most games by just showing up. Complacency after winning the MNC will be their biggest enemy.
Miami to the Orange, Syracuse to the Gator [costing the BE this bid] Pitt to the Insight, Tech to Charlotte, and Boston College to San Francisco. Tech pounds N.C. State until Chuck Amato sings for mercy, and Hokie fans immediately start salivating for '03.
Jim Alderson,who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.